Rod Raven Coaching Kids Both On and Off the Court

Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature Rod Raven, who is the lead Activity Helper at Arcadia Elementary School where he also serves after school as basketball coach for both boys and girls. In both these roles, Rod works with CIS to assure students have what they need to succeed in school and life. Rod is a 2019 Champ recipient and if you missed what was said about him at Champs, go here.

Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, Rod came to Kalamazoo in 1985 seeking better employment opportunities. Prior to working at Arcadia Elementary, he ran summer programs, including working six years at the Boys and Girls Club. Rod is also the proud father of three children. His son Demonte is a military police officer, daughter Taysha attends college at KVCC, and daughter Nakia is a therapy behavior technician here in Kalamazoo.

Alright, Rod Raven: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

Pop Quiz

Practice is the foundation of success in sports (and other things). It’s been said that whatever you do in practice, you’ll do that during the competition. Do you find that what kids do in practice, carries over from the court into the classroom?

Definitely. And that behavior carries over into the halls, onto the playground, and into the future. Take manners for example. That’s an important life skill and something we practice. A lot of the teachers will stop me and say how students are greeting them by saying “Good morning” and “Good afternoon,” and that this is a turn-around from the previous school year.

I love seeing our kids doing their work in school, reading, working on art, listening to teachers, and walking calmly down the hallway. They are echoing each other’s positive behaviors.

A commonly shared aspect of success on and off the court is being a consistent performer, to try hard in all conditions and never give up, responding positively to winning and losing, taking up both success and failure in a positive way. Is this a teachable trait? And if so, how do you teach it?

I do believe it’s a teachable trait. I encourage the boys at the beginning of practice and before games that no matter how the game turns out; we’re all winners here. I will give that message to both teams—there is no failure here. Participation is honorable in itself.

I stress teamwork, politeness, kindness, and respect. The way I coach is by structuring things a little differently during our time together. The first half hour is educational and students read and do homework. The second half of the hour is devoted to life skills. We talk and reflect on both the positive and negative behaviors that have occurred in school and home. We discuss and debate what choices could have made or made better, so that should they experience a similar situation later on in life, they will be aware of it, and make a positive choice in the future. After all that, we then have about 25 minutes of basketball practice. I realize that’s not a lot of time, but it sends the message that academics and behavior are more important. The students will be going on to middle and then high school and behavior is key to success in school and on the court.

I tell the kids that Michael Jordon and Lebron James may be the best known players, but a lot of other players out there were just as good but because they had behavior problems, they didn’t get to be on the platform and go to that next level. Getting a good education is important. To get to that next level—whatever area they see themselves in—behavior and academics need to be a focus.

Rod, Myah (left), and Joan (right) listening as Bob Miller (not pictured) introduces Rod at Champs.

CIS Site Coordinator Joan Coopes and CIS After School Coordinator Myah VanTil say you are not only invested in the students’ success, but you get them to invest in each other. Can you talk some about how you do that?

We work as one. We practice life skills together, talk as one, help each other with homework, whether its math or social studies we’re working together. And students help each other with choice-making. Say a player is making a bad choice on the playground. Other members will step in and remind that student that they are representing not only themselves, but the team. They remind them what they stand for.

Over the last four years, I haven’t had to break up any fights and that is because they have been learning to make better choices: to walk away, to talk it out, or resolve the situation with support from others.

Several of the boys have commented [about you] to both Joan and Myah that “he is teaching us how to be gentleman.” How do you go about imparting this?

The way you present yourselves tells others a lot about you. I never was one for slacks hanging down so every Friday, the boys dress up in a shirt and tie. As the “Young Men of Arcadia,” they demonstrate politeness and being a gentleman. At the end of the school year, I take them to a formal dinner so that they can experience that setting and practice their manners. They really improve from the beginning to the end of the year. All this helps them be role models to their friends and family now and later in life.

What are you currently reading?

I’m always reading lots of sports magazine. And I also love reading poetry.

Have you read Kwame Alexander’s work, like his book, The Crossover, that blends basketball and poetry? It combines two things you love!

One of my friends told me about his books. I need to read that one! I do enjoy reading poetry and writing it, too.

You write poetry?

I write poetry for friends, mostly. I’ll write poems for valentines and birthdays, illnesses, things like that.

What is your favorite word right now?

Ambition.

Where is one place in Kalamazoo you love hanging out?

School. I don’t do a lot of club stuff. I’m always busy with kids, at school and during the weekend in my community.

Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?

So many! Right now, I’d have to say Mr. Greg Socha. Over these last six years that I’ve been with Arcadia he has provided such encouragement. He shows a willingness to listen and take on challenges with me. When I’ve come up with an idea, he’s 100 percent behind it. We never look at an idea—or trying out an idea—as failure. I’m going to miss him. [Principal Greg Socha retired at the end of this school year.]

Thank you, Rod, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.

Coach Rod Raven Receives Champ Award

At the 12th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, Rod Raven was honored with a 2019 Champ Award which was sponsored by Comerica. CIS Board Member Bob Miller, CIS Site Coordinator Joan Coopes, and CIS After School Coordinator Myah VanTil presented the award. 

Bob: “Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates.” Magic Johnson may have said this, but this next Champ lives it. By day, Rod Raven is the lead activity helper at Arcadia Elementary School. After school, he serves as Arcadia’s basketball coach for both boys and girls. Regardless of what position he’s playing, Coach Raven works with CIS to assure students have what they need to succeed in school and life.

Myah (left) and Joan (right) listen with Rod as Bob Miller talks about teamwork.

Like basketball, teamwork is key when it comes to CIS. Each of us must do our part so kids succeed. Mr. Raven plays his positions exquisitely. And he has such a gift for getting kids to invest in each other.

One way he does this is by giving former students a chance to live out one of the five CIS basics that every child needs and deserves—and that’s an opportunity to give back to peers and their community. We love seeing young leaders like Linden Grove Middle School’s Devin Harris and Kalamazoo Central High School’s Keyten Thompson-Johnson and Le’Montae Daniels-Thompson, who, after a full day at school, come to Arcadia and give back by coaching, mentoring, and modelling positive behaviors for our students.

Myah: Like any good teammate, there are times Mr. Raven has turned to us for helping students, and times we’ve turned to him. I remember when I first started out as Arcadia’s CIS after school coordinator. One of my students was really struggling. I knew I could turn to Mr. Raven. Together, we came up with a behavior plan. His input—combined with the trusting relationship he had with the student—resulted in a complete turnaround: the student’s attitude dramatically improved, his assignments were completed and turned in on time, and behavior incidences went to zero.

Joan: Young men at Arcadia will come up to Myah and me and comment with great pride that Mr. Raven is teaching us how to be gentlemen. As the “Young Men of Arcadia,” they dress up in a shirt and tie on Fridays and practice the life skills Mr. Raven is teaching them from his open playbook, such as politeness, manners, listening, and making good choices.

Bob: Here’s what two of these gentlemen-in-training say about being part of Coach Raven’s team, in which academics always come first: Jazary says, “He’s brought our team far and helped us get better at basketball and school. He gives us lots of training. We’re even learning during recess!”

Mohammad appreciates that he’s always learning something new. “I’ve never played basketball before and he’s teaching me. It feels good to be part of the team.”

Both agree that if you want to be on Coach Raven’s team all you have to do is just work really, really hard.

Rod Raven, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Myah (above) and Joan (below) congratulating Rod on his Champ award.

What are CIS Staff Reading?

It’s National Reading Month and a time when Kalamazoo Public Schools hosts literacy activities throughout the schools. We prepare ourselves by engaging in the annual ritual of asking: What are you reading? Here’s what some Communities In Schools (CIS) staff are reading…

I just finished Perfect Peace by Daniel Black which was an amazing story reflecting a mother’s desperate decision to acquire something she’d always wanted through methods that the rest of the world would see as imponderable. When the truth is revealed, a story of unconditional love, family, and sexuality is born.  I am currently reading Evicted by Matthew Desmond, Second House from the Corner by Sadeqa Johnson, and Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer.

-Stacy S. Jackson, CIS After School Coordinator, Edison Environmental Science Academy

[Note: As part of Reading Together, you can meet Pulitzer Prize winning author Matthew Desmond on Friday, March 16 at 7pm at Chenery. It’s free, but KPL would like you to first register here. ]

 

The last book I read was Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo. This book inspired CIS volunteer, Dr. Zhu, to help with tutoring. (See the blog post by clicking here.)

-Emily Kobza, Director of Development & Business Engagement

 

I am reading The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. I just finished Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo – recommended by Dr. Jim Zhu.  Very good reads!

-Missy Best, Senior CIS Site Coordinator, Milwood Magnet School

 

With my four-year-old, I’m reading Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.  With my seven-year-old, I’m reading Kate DiCamillo’s Flora and Ulysses. With my (38-year-old) spouse, I’m reading a collection of poetry with authors that include Mary Oliver, Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, and Clare of Assisi, among others.

Thanks for asking one of my favorite questions!

-Angela Van Heest, CIS Site Coordinator, Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School

 

I’m reading Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff.

-Shannon Jones, CIS After School Coordinator Milwood Magnet School

 

I am currently reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I took my students to see the movie. They had such good discussions comparing and contrasting the book from the movie they encouraged me to read it.

-Phillip Hegwood, CIS After School Coordinator, Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts

 

I’m always reading several…

-Maggie Walters, CIS Success Coach, Loy Norrix High School

 

I’ve just started reading The Shack by Canadian author William P. Young. This was a favorite of my Mother’s. She had me buy extra copies a few years back, before she passed, so she could share them with others who also lived at her nursing home. I saw the movie when it came out and loved it.

-Kelly Cedarquist, CIS Site Coordinator, King-Westwood Elementary

 

I just finished The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. It’s the kind of book you can’t stop thinking about. I’m now reading Ordinary Light: A Memoir by poet Tracey K. Smith. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction. I also love reading work by local writers, so each night I’m reading one poem by Elizabeth Kerlikowske in Off the Wall: How Art Speaks and studying the accompanying painting by Mary Hatch. A stunning and fun book!

-Jennifer Clark, Special Projects & Initiatives

 

I have been reading books in the King Killer Chronicle series by Patrick Rothfuss. I am currently on the second book in the series, The Wise Man’s Fear. A couple books ago I read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which probably is the best book I have read in the last year. I highly recommend it.

-Jenna Cooperrider, CIS Success Coach, Kalamazoo Central High School

 

Our Native Bees: North America’s Endangered Pollinators and the Fight to Save Them by Paige Embry.  Honey bees are frequently in the spotlight. I’m fascinated by them. I’m a beekeeper. Looming as an even larger concern are our native pollinators and native bees. Complex topic and simple steps that everyone can engage in.

Also reading The Bee: A Natural History by Noah Wilson-Rich. It’s that time of year to continue to educate myself, prepare, and network with other beekeepers before the first nectar becomes available. Great information.

-Maureen Cartmill, CIS Site Coordinator, Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts

 

My book club (The Lovely Ladies of Literature) is reading The Patternist series by Octavia Butler. We are on Book 1, Wild Seed. The interesting thing about the series is that she wrote them in the opposite order that you read them in. So, the last book that she wrote is the first book that you read. Also, there was a fifth book, but she shelved it because it didn’t really flow the way she had hoped for.

-Artrella Cohn, Senior Director of Community Engagement & Student Investment

 

I recently finished a fascinating, but tragic story called Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. It is a fictional story but is based on a little known historical event that took place between 1854 and 1929, where over 200,000 orphan children were sent across the Midwest by train to be placed with families, often to be used as free labor. It was excellent. I am presently reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. I learned of this author at Cara’s SEL [Social Emotional Learning] training and so far am really enjoying it!

Joan Coopes, CIS Site Coordinator, Arcadia Elementary

 

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. It’s historical fiction. And this, from the NYT’s book review: A finalist for this year’s Man Booker Prize, The Narrow Road to the Deeper North portrays a singular episode of manic brutality: imperial Japan’s construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in the early 1940s. The British had long investigated this route, but they deemed the jungle impenetrable. Once the Japanese captured Burma, though, its army needed a more efficient resupply route, and so the impossible became possible in just over a year by using some 300,000 people as disposable labor. Flanagan’s late father was a survivor of that atrocity, which took the lives of more than 12,000 Allied prisoners.

Keely Novotny, CIS Site Coordinator, Edison Environmental Science Academy

 

I am usually reading three to four books at a time.  I always have one book I listen to in the car, one I can pick up and put down easily, one I read before I go to sleep, and one I can’t put down.  The car book at present is The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. It is the story of a young woman from Sweden who loses her job in a bookstore and decides to visit her elderly pen pal in a dying town in Iowa, and what happens next.

The pick up/put down book is often short stories or essays.  Currently it is Spoiled Brats, a book of short stories by Simon Rich. The summary on the back of the book starts out with “Twenty years ago, Barney the Dinosaur told the nation’s children they were special. We’re still paying the price. From “one of the funniest writers working today (review from Rolling Stone) comes a collection of stories culled from the front lines of the millennial culture wars.”  I have only read the first story in which the narrator is a guinea pig living in a second grade classroom.

My bedtime book is from the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley, The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place.  Flavia is an eleven-year-old girl growing up in England in the 1950s.  She is fascinated with chemistry and uses her extensive knowledge of poisons and decay to help the local inspector solve murders.  This is the ninth book in the series.

And, finally, the book I can’t put down is Need to Know by Karen Cleveland. The protagonist is Vivian who works for the CIA who, while trying to find out more about a Russian handler and the agents he handles, finds information that threatens everything that matters to her. I read the first chapter of this book online in an email I get about books. The sender takes the first chapter of a book and breaks it into five segments and sends each segment daily for a week.  At the end of the week, this one got me….

-Barbara Worgess, Project Manager of School Based Health Initiative

 

Keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000+ Kids and you’ll soon find out what our volunteers have been reading!